White House: Keystone XL Pipeline Not A Climate Change Cure

The White House says no final decision has been made about the fate of the pipeline, but for environmentalists reading the tea leaves, such rhetoric is not a positive sign.

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EWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images

US President Barack Obama boards Air Force One at the Chicago O'Hare International airport on March 15, 2013 in Chicago, Illinois.

ABOARD AIR FORCE ONE

Barack Obama has seen protesters from his motorcade for years: McCain and Romney campaign supporters, health care reform opponents and all manner of Tea Party acolytes. But when he left Argonne National Laboratory in a cold rain outside Chicago on Friday, there was another breed altogether: environmentalists bearing bright hand-painted signs with messages like, “No XL Pipeline.”

In a matter of months, the Obama Administration will have to decide whether to permit the Keystone XL pipeline, a 2,000 mile conduit for Canadian oil seeking ports on the Gulf of Mexico. Environmentalists have made stopping the pipeline their number one priority, saying it will encourage the development of a particularly dirty type of oil at a time when America should be leading the world in reducing greenhouse gases.

White House aides are clearly uncomfortable with the current campaign from their left, a fact that quickly became clear on the flight to Chicago. “Thousands of miles of pipeline have been built since President Obama took office, and that hasn’t had a measurable impact on climate change,” said Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest, on board Air Force One. “The truth is what we need to do is take an all of the above approach.”

When I asked if he was saying that further green energy investment was more important to fighting climate change than stopping the new pipeline, he did not hesitate. “There is no question about that,” he said.

White House officials say no final decision has been made about the fate of the pipeline, but for environmentalists reading the tea leaves, such rhetoric is not a positive sign. Repeatedly in recent weeks, Obama’s aides have tried to distance the President from the process. “When there is a decision that is ready to be announced by the State Department, they will go ahead and make that announcement,” said Earnest. Notably, when Obama rejected a previous plan for the pipeline during the election year, he said his concern was focused only on the rushed permit process. “This announcement is not a judgement on the merits of the pipeline,” the President said in a statement at the time.

For senior administration officials, the protests over the pipeline have distracted from the more important fights, and recent accomplishments, in the fight to reduce carbon pollution, which the president has again elevated to a priority since winning the election. At the Argonne National Laboratory, Obama praised recent government funded research to develop electric cars, and announced plans for a new $2 billion, 10-year National Energy Trust, which would provide new research funding for electric and low-emissions vehicles.

He also boasted of a recent Environmental Protection Agency study that showed significant increases in fuel economy of U.S. cars, in part because of new standards instituted during Obama’s first term. After the speech, Obama aides sent reporters an email titled “How We Shift America Off Oil” that did not mention the pipeline, but rather pointed to the importance of new funding for energy research that would reduce American dependence on fossil fuels.

On Capitol Hill, Republicans have also made the Keystone XL pipeline a cause celeb. As the President flex to Chicago, Michigan Republican Congressman Ted Upton introduced a bill Friday that would give Congress the power to approve the pipeline directly, though its passage is far from certain in the Senate. Congressional Republicans raised the topic of the pipeline on Wednesday in a meeting with Obama. Reports from the room, which have been confirmed by the White House, described Obama as neither embracing nor rejecting the project.

105 comments
JoannaHoyt
JoannaHoyt

"All of the above" sounds well-balanced, but it leaves out some key facts.  We're running out of fossil fuel which can be efficiently extracted in any case; why not change to clean energy a little sooner, save some of our irreplaceable potable water and spare ourselves some of the worst effects of climate exacerbation?

Please consider signing this petition:

 https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/reject-keystone-xl-pipeline/QBQ3Xh5J


TaraEnergy
TaraEnergy

The environmental arguments against KeystoneXL ignore that in the long-term, approving the pipeline is better for the environment than rejecting it.  It will reduce greenhouse gas emissions since Canada has stated that oil shipped via KeystoneXL will be done so under terms of an agreement that lowers these emissions by 17% (http://goo.gl/Kbw35).  In addition, it will reduce the number of trucks, trains and barges needed to transport the oil, further lowering emissions.  And it should be noted that pipeline transport is the most environmentally safe form of oil conveyance.  There are currently 170,000 miles of pipeline in the U.S., moving 11.3 billion barrels of petroleum annually.  This method has by far the lowest spill rate of any method, with only 0.7 incidents per thousand miles of pipeline between 2006 and 2008.  Also, 80% of spills involve less than fifty barrels, with most involving less than three. 

 

Plymouth.Indian
Plymouth.Indian

A question I have posed to several government officials has never been answered.  From Alberta it's about 700 miles west to the Pacific or 700 miles east to the Great Lakes vs. 2100 miles across the U.S. to Texas.  If this project is such a great idea, why doesn't Canada build its own pipeline west or east and refine it in Canada?  Also, I recently read that Secretary of State Kerry is or has been invested in TransCanada, as was the potential Secretary nominee, Ms. S. Rice.  If so it would be in his financial interest, sooner or later, to approve the pipeline.       

shepherdwong
shepherdwong

Game Over for the Climate

"If we were to fully exploit this new oil source, and continue to burn our conventional oil, gas and coal supplies, concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere eventually would reach levels higher than in the Pliocene era, more than 2.5 million years ago, when sea level was at least 50 feet higher than it is now. That level of heat-trapping gases would assure that the disintegration of the ice sheets would accelerate out of control. Sea levels would rise and destroy coastal cities. Global temperatures would become intolerable. Twenty to 50 percent of the planet’s species would be driven to extinction. Civilization would be at risk."

-- James Hanson

Veeviennn
Veeviennn

“%s: %s "%s: White House: Keystone XL Pipeline Not A Climate Change Cure %s5aE v%sics"”

Leftcoastrocky
Leftcoastrocky

are there technologies to make petroleum from the tar sands environmentally cleaner?

vcastle
vcastle

The oil is going to be extracted and used- either here or by any other buyer. Not finishing the pipeline will simple change the destination of the oil, not its use. To think that the oil will be left in the ground is delusional.

MarcusMann
MarcusMann

Sigh....not one of you here, nor the author of this inane piece, even mention the actual issue. The problem is not really safety, or environmental impact, or jobs, or energy independence (at least from overseas oil).

The real issue is an ethical one. 

First it should be noted that it has been calculated that the current reserves of carbon fuels globally already exceeds what we can safely burn before climate change becomes a catastrophic event, rather than challenging effect, we therefore should not be drilling/mining for MORE...period.

Second, the issue at hand as it regards the tar sands is that the tar sands are one of the world's most environmentally destructive projects ever, the Canadian govt should be taken out in the street and stoned.

Third, and the main point really, is that by buying the oil from these tar sands is to support the environmental holocaust that the tar sands are, at the very least people of conscience should boycott the oil produced, but to actually build a pipeline and refine it (in the gulf coast no less) is more than being supportive of the project, its becoming a PARTNER in it.

The world' current reserve is more than twice what we can safely use if we are to keep global temps below 2 degrees. Therefore ANY drilling or mining is just plain WRONG. 

The real cost of the pipeline economically, environmentally and morally is WAY too high.

joeygeno
joeygeno

Can someone tell me why it makes sense to pipe this oil 2000 miles across the entire United States-------to get it to a refinery on the gulf coast---------Why not eliminate the pipeline and build a refinery on the Canadian border???

ChrisHarlos
ChrisHarlos

The science is very clear. The stakes could not be higher. It is a fool's hope that the US government will break with its time-honored policy of promoting fossil-fuel production, including the Canadian Tar Sands Oil projects. US elites and their captured political agents, and Obama is the prize lackey, are hell-bent on intensifying the awful effects of AGW-caused climate change.

Either they go or we will.  The ruling rich will not compromise nor give up a $ of their wealth freely.

grape_crush
grape_crush

> White House: Keystone XL Pipeline Not A Climate Change Cure

Kind of a misleading headline, Scherer, don't you think? I don't know of anyone who's saying that stopping the exploitation of the Canadian tar sands will be the magic bullet that stops the human-initiated climate change that we are experiencing.

It won't. But it's a start on something we need to take seriously.

> ...the protests over the pipeline have distracted from the more important fights...

Well. Obama did say once that a President has to know how to multitask.

And securing funding for the development of green energy technology and programs isn't only important fight.

Just a reminder:

http://grist.files.wordpress.com/2013/03/information-is-beautiful-co2-graphic.jpg

GnarbucksMopeds
GnarbucksMopeds

What a coward.  He can't even stand up to a Canadian oil company, so I guess there is no chance he'll stand up to the American companies that want to pipe this trash all around, and even to start scraping it out of the ground in Utah.

ramzialadin
ramzialadin

this pipeline is way safer than deep water drilling all around the country.

rob3
rob3

The first Keystone pipeline created 250 temporary jobs for US workers. Why would the second one be substantially different ?

primate7
primate7

%s Expose and expel polluter mafia Stephen Harper, Transcanada, %s, etc. in fed\/state\/local govts. -%s0GM0C

maddog105
maddog105

Maybe we should ask if all the Representative and Senators if they would mind if their children were killed with a semi automatic gun as in 

Newtown. also to fix our econmey  we should make all senators and Repetitiveness stop paying them make them take SSI and Medicare and this shit will stop 

RobertFanney
RobertFanney

The industry says the pipeline is necessary to expand tar sands production. So which is it? I think the environmentalists have this one right. Everyone else is just dancing around the issue.

stevebloom55
stevebloom55

@RL_Miller Dirty hippies don't understand the need to treat environment as just another special interest to be traded off against others,

evanoneil
evanoneil

@HelioCurrent I'm sure they are getting hit from all angles on KXL, plus the systemic\/bureaucratic inertia is fierce, change-averse.

bythedog399
bythedog399

The central argument of this piece is flawed.  From the fact that KXL will not cure climate change, it does not follow that it's irrelevant whether or not we build it.  Since I was one of the environmentalists who was there yesterday, I can assure Mike Sherer that we are not as naive as he seem to think.  Preventing the construction of the KXL pipeline is only one piece of the very large puzzle that needs to built -- and quickly -- to prevent catastrophic consequences.

http://www.progressillinois.com/quick-hits/content/2013/03/15/environmentalists-argonne-demand-obama-honor-campaign-promises

Canadaeh
Canadaeh

If the U.S does not want our Canadian oil,the Asian market does.Never ceases to amaze us oil sands workers why the U.S does not want Canadian ethical oil from your northern friends,but would rather import oil from Venezuela and the war torn middle east by tankers crossing the ocean.If the pipeline does not go south it will be built west to the coast of B.C then off to the Asian market.

econmagic
econmagic

The environmental argument centers in great part on the corrosive nature of oilsands.  Apparently, it is more likely to cause a leak.  The pipelime is also projected to go over a very sensitive part of North America, where if there will be a major leak, it will be dezastrous.  I'm refering to the Ogalala aquifer, which provides irrigation to a substantial part of US agricultural land.  If the Aquifer gets contaminated, US will turn from net food exporter, to net food importer.  As for the economic benefits of it.  Many people have been pushing this concept of North American oil independence.  The math simply doesn't add up.

See for yourself:

http://zoltansustainableecon.blogspot.com/2013/03/north-american-oil-independence-by-2030.html

MarcusMann
MarcusMann

@Leftcoastrocky Currently the margin between "energy in...to energy out" is far greater than conventional extraction methods, making the profit margin correspondingly smaller, so, no, there isn't.

shepherdwong
shepherdwong

@vcastle  Not necessarily. If they can't run a pipeline to the gulf, they will have to run it through British Columbia, a highly dubious proposition given BC's own environmental bent. No pipeline, no economic rationale for tar sands extraction.

Canadaeh
Canadaeh

@vcastle Let the U.S burn their coal,they are close to bankrupt already

MarcusMann
MarcusMann

@vcastle Lol, sadly that's true...however, that's the same as saying, "She's really hot, and she's gonna get raped by somebody, might as well be me..."


Plymouth.Indian
Plymouth.Indian

@joeygeno I have been directing a similar question to several officials, including Senator B. Sanders of Vermont, a strong objector.  However, I have never received a response from anyone.  Neither do I notice any coverage or discussion of the pipeline in the news.  My question is:  If this project is so great, why doesn't Canada capitalize on it?  It's only 700 miles west to the Pacific or 700 miles east to the Great Lakes, so why does anyone want to lay a pipeline 3 times that--2100 miles--across the U.S. to Texas?   

grape_crush
grape_crush

...the only important fight...

Need an edit button.

sailsmart
sailsmart

@ConBGone @InklessPW what's good for oil companies isn't good for democratic access to government in both Canada & US. Monopolies kill jobs

roitweets
roitweets

@jlovink ah yes, true, but that Obama staffer said "what we need to do is take an all of the above approach".

MarcusMann
MarcusMann

@Canadaeh Did you say "ethical"!!?!

You should wipe your mouth out with soap...there is absolutely NOTHING "ethical" about the tar sands project.

I have been there...AND I have been DOWNSTREAM....nope....NOTHING ethical about it.

Piacevole
Piacevole

@Canadaeh I'm not so sure it's a question of who "wants" it, but who's in line to <I>get</I> it.  It looks as if it's headed for Asia, and if that's the case, Canada has two shorelines of its very own: it could use them, and leave the U.S. out of the mess altogether.

JasonDuba
JasonDuba

@Canadaeh Don't be so sure of that:

"The Northern Gateway project, proposed by Canadian pipeline company Enbridge, would stretch from Bruderheim in northern Alberta to Kitimat, a port on Charlotte Sound and the Pacific. If completed, it would allow the export of tar-sands oil to Asia, where Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper sees a significant future market (even though few Asian refineries could now process the stuff). But unlike oil-friendly Alberta, British Columbia has a strong pro-environmental bias and many senior provincial officials have expressed fierce opposition to the project. Moreover, under the country’s constitution, native peoples over whose land the pipeline would have to travel must be consulted on the project — and most tribal communities are adamantly opposed to its construction.

"Another proposed conduit — an expansion of the existing Trans Mountain pipeline from Edmonton to Vancouver — presents the same set of obstacles and, like the Northern Gateway project, has aroused strong opposition in Vancouver."

...

"The stakes in this battle could not be higher. If Keystone XL fails to win the president’s approval, the industry will certainly grow at a far slower pace than forecast and possibly witness the failure of costly ventures, resulting in an industry-wide contraction. If approved, however, production will soar and global warming will occur at an even faster rate than previously projected. In this way, a presidential decision will have an unexpectedly decisive and lasting impact on all our lives."

-Michael T. Klare, "Obama’s Keystone XL decision could doom the tar sands … or the planet", http://grist.org/climate-energy/obamas-keystone-xl-decision-could-doom-the-tar-sands-or-the-planet/


joeygeno
joeygeno

Because thats where all the Bushes reside.  You don't for one minute think this was O'bama's idea do you?

The Septogenarian dysfunctional band of men we call Congress will never grasp what the real reason is.  And

if Grandma Palin running around the stage with leather pants on, drinking a tub of whatever is the best the GOP can come up with for the future-----God help us.

Diecash1
Diecash1

@Piacevole @ramzialadin Empirical evidence and logic would dictate that he is correct.  By most any metric, pipelines are much safer and the environment in which they operate are much less severe.  Regardless, it doesn't mean that the XL pipeline is a good idea.

Canadaeh
Canadaeh

@JasonDuba @Canadaeh There is no tar in Alberta it is called "Bitumen" We are now shipping our product by rail.A pipeline is safer as we have thousands of miles of pipeline now across North America already.Does Obama consider OPEC oil shipped by tanker a better and safer alternative to Canadian oil.We also know the environment is way down in the concerns of Americans,if you want to see how green energy works look into the Ontario green energy disaster.Obama has just about destroyed your economy as it is.

Piacevole
Piacevole

@MarcusMann @Piacevole @Canadaeh I'm afraid it's not going to be my decision to make, so I cannot "see to it."

Someone else is going to decide this issue.  The best we can do is urge, point out problems, and note prevarications when they turn up.


JasonDuba
JasonDuba

@Canadaeh @JasonDuba

1. "Oil sands, tar sands or, more technically, bituminous sands, are a type of unconventional petroleum deposit. The oil sands are loose sand or partially consolidated sandstone containing naturally occurring mixtures of sand,clay, and water, saturated with a dense and extremely viscous form of petroleum technically referred to as bitumen(or colloquially tar due to its similar appearance, odour and colour)." -http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oil_sands

2. "With no other pipelines in the offing, tar-sands producers are increasing their reliance on deliveries by rail. This is producing boom times for some long-haul freight carriers, but will never prove sufficient to move the millions of barrels in added daily output expected from projects now coming on line.

"The conclusion is obvious: Without Keystone XL, the price of tar-sands oil will remain substantially lower than conventional oil (as well as unconventional oil extracted from shale formations in the United States), discouraging future investment and dimming the prospects for increased output. In other words, as Bill McKibben hopes, much of it will stay in the ground."

-Michael T. Klare, "Obama’s Keystone XL decision could doom the tar sands … or the planet", February 11, 2013,http://grist.org/climate-energy/obamas-keystone-xl-decision-could-doom-the-tar-sands-or-the-planet/

3. "Critics maintain that while they’re relatively safe, pipelines should be safer. In many cases, critics argue, pipeline accidents could have been prevented with proper regulation from the government and increased safety measures by the industry. The 2.5 million miles of America’s pipelines suffer hundreds of leaks and ruptures every year, costing lives and money. As existing lines grow older, critics warn that the risk of accidents on those lines will only increase."

-Lena Groeger, "Pipelines Explained: How Safe are America’s 2.5 Million Miles of Pipelines?", November 15, 2012, http://www.propublica.org/article/pipelines-explained-how-safe-are-americas-2.5-million-miles-of-pipelines

4. "Since the Arab oil embargoes of the 1960s and 70s, it's been conventional wisdom to talk about American dependence on oil from the Persian Gulf. But the global oil market has changed dramatically since then.

"Today, the U.S. actually gets most of its imported oil from Canada and Latin America."

"Canada is far and away the biggest purveyor of crude to its southern neighbor, hitting a record 2.2 million barrels a day last year as its share of the U.S. market grew by 12 percent."

-Corey Flintoff, National Public Radio, "Where Does America Get Oil? You May Be Surprised", http://www.npr.org/2012/04/11/150444802/where-does-america-get-oil-you-may-be-surprised

5. "For the first time since the United States entered a deep recession five years ago, 70% of Americans now say they believe global warming is a reality, according to researchers.

"In a report released Thursday by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication, authors wrote that America’s concern about global warming is now at its highest level since 2008, and that 58% of Americans expressed worries about it."

-Monte Morin, Los Angeles Times, "Americans increasingly believe in global warming, Yale report says", October 18, 2012, http://articles.latimes.com/2012/oct/18/science/la-sci-sn-climate-change-poll-20121018

6. "Ontario’s controversial $7 billion deal with Samsung Renewable Energy is running late. And delays in the initial stages of the deal are likely to cascade into further deferrals, the company says.

"But in a rare interview, Samsung’s top man in Canada defended the company’s agreement with the province, which has become a lightning rod for critics of the Liberal government’s renewable energy policies.

"Ki-Jung Kim said that Samsung has been surprised at the length of time it has taken to get regulatory clearance for its wind and solar projects."

-John Spears, "Ontario’s Samsung green energy deal ripens slowly", February 8, 2013, http://www.thestar.com/business/2013/02/08/ontarios_samsung_green_energy_deal_ripens_slowly.html

7. “It is hard to think of an economic indicator more important to Canadian executives these days than U.S. job growth.  To generalize, where U.S. jobs go is where the U.S. economy goes; where the U.S. economy goes is where the Canadian economy goes.”

-John McCallum, “Canadian executives, the Canadian economy and U.S. job growth”, http://www.iveybusinessjournal.com/departments/viewpoint/canadian-executives-the-canadian-economy-and-u-s-job-growth#.UUXQrRdwofU

Piacevole
Piacevole

@Canadaeh @JasonDuba "That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet."

That which we call "bitumen" smells about like tar, and does huge dame in its extraction, and promises still more damage in the transport.